#WyrdAndWonder YA Weekend Audio: Blade of Secrets by Tricia Levenseller
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Series: Book 1 of Bladesmith
Publisher: Macmillan Audio (May 4, 2021)
Length:8 hrs and 53 mins
Narrator: Emily Ellet
I went into Blade of Secrets expecting fun times, and I was totally not disappointed! I loved Tricia Levenseller’s The Shadows Between Us and so it was no surprise her new Bladesmith duology is off to a rockin’ start, with all the action, adventure and humor I could possibly ask for.
The story begins by introducing us to Ziva, our titular bladesmith who possesses a magical talent enabling her to make enchanted weapons that are highly sought after across the realm. One day, she hopes to save enough money for her and her younger sister Temra to strike out on their own and make a new life for themselves. However, Ziva also struggles with severe social anxiety, and usually it is the bubbly and charismatic Temra who is the face of their business and the one to deal directly with customers. Ziva herself is completely content to work at her forge in the back of the shop alone, where she can stay far away from crowds and avoid any interaction with strangers.
Still, every once in a while, the sisters must make a social appearance, especially in the noble circles of their most lucrative clients. It is during one of these soirees that Ziva meets Warlord Kymora, a former general of the King and said to be the greatest swordfighter in all the land. Kymora, who is aware of Ziva’s reputation, wishes to commission from her a magical sword. She is also willing to pay handsomely, even offering Ziva a position in her household as her personal weaponsmith. Starstruck and honored by the praise, our protagonist agrees and sets about trying to forge the most powerful sword she has ever made. But how? Her magic works in mysterious ways, and often a weapon’s magical effects are imbued during the crafting process and won’t even manifest themselves completely until after they’re finished.
Unexpectedly, the answer to Ziva’s predicament comes in the form of a beautiful stranger she spies passing by the front of her shop as she was in the middle of crafting the weapon. Something about him causes her her forget about her anxieties just long enough for her half-made sword to react, thus giving Ziva the idea to imbue the metal with her most private thoughts. In the end, a blade more powerful beyond her wildest dreams is forged—one not only capable of cutting its victims from a distance, but also revealing their secrets from spilled blood. This is how Ziva discovers Kymora’s deepest desires and realizes she can never allow the sword to fall into such dangerous hands. With no choice but to run, the sisters hire a mercenary to help guide them through the wilderness, as well as a traveling scholar who may be able to help them destroy the magical blade.
I don’t know how she does it, but I just can’t seem to get enough of Tricia Levenseller’s fun, refreshing style! Those who know me know this is not the kind of YA I typically go for—it’s cheesy, fairly predictable and full of clichés, and yet I ate it all up. There’s just something about her writing that makes it easy to overlook these aspects. Some authors try too hard, resulting in overly contrived plotlines and characters, but Levenseller seems to own it, employing well-worn albeit beloved genre tropes like they’re going out of style, and appears not to care one whit about it. I have no idea why such an unapologetic and unabashed approach makes a difference, but it does, while simultaneously delivering an experience that feels more authentic somehow.
I also believe a good story must start with the characters, and here is where I think the characterization of our protagonist really shines. Anyone who has ever struggled with social anxiety will immediately relate to Ziva, especially during the segments where we are inside her head, experiencing the sheer panic and fear of being in a roomful of strangers, feeling like you can say or do nothing right, while the sensation of being watched, being scrutinized is ever closing in, tightening around your chest, making it hard to breathe and think straight. It’s a cycle that plunges a person into paralysis, making you feel helpless and out of control, and it can be extremely unpleasant. My heart broke for Ziva, and having been in her shoes, I felt her portrayal was realistic, sympathetic, delicate and thoughtful. Simply put, her character is not defined by her social anxiety, but it is as much a part of her as, say, her love for her sister, or her determination to do the right thing. This I feel is representation done properly, and not just another box for an author to check off in order to score some internet woke points. I truly felt close to the protagonist, and while all the other characters—Temra, Kellyn, Petrik, etc.—were fantastically written as well, it was still Ziva alone who had a special place in my heart.
Needless to say, I am now a completely sold on anything Tricia Levenseller does and a hundred percent going to be all over the sequel. While Blade of Secrets ended on a semi-cliffhanger in that not everything is hunky-dory but you still know they’ll turn out okay, I’m nonetheless itching to get my hands on the next book to see what happens next. That’s the power of a good story, one that allows you to just kick back and have fun.
Audiobook Comments: Loved, loved, loved Emily Ellet’s narration and portrayal of Ziva as well as the other characters in this charming, lovable cast. Her performance was great, and I hope I’ll be fortunate enough to listen to her again.